Tom and I have just taken a walk around our neighbourhood. It is wonderful to see vegetable gardens springing up all over, and to have a chance to say hi to the early morning dog walkers. Last Friday I got together with other members of the steering committee for Seattle Tilth’s Food and Faith Initiative to discuss ways to further encourage faith communities to reach out into their neighbourhoods.
It seems appropriate therefore that I have also been rereading the chapters The New Parish on Presencing and Rooting. To me these are core concepts of what it means to become the New Parish, but then again I am all into spiritual formation so that is probably not surprising. The ideas also flow well from my post yesterday, because imagining what the kingdom of God could look like in our communities and working to bring about kingdom change is at the heart of the type of spirituality we all need.
I continue to reflect on the type of spirituality these chapters highlight and what we can learn about the practices we all need to develop for the future. I love the concepts that Dwight, Paul and Tim explore here. Their emphasis on a spirituality that is community focused not individually based is wonderful. Their challenge to root this in a certain place together not only with our own faith community but with those of other faith persuasions is compelling and to a certain extent convicting.
1. Drawing people together for mutual times of listening, discerning and experimenting. As I am sure you are all very well aware this is the practice that is at the core of MSA. Our regular discernment meetings have profoundly shaped our organization over the last few years and will continue to define our ministry for the future.
2. Modifying lectio divina to include not only listening to scripture but also to our own story and the story of our neighbourhood. Again a very important practice that gets us our into the neighbourhood, looking listening, engaging people we meet and discerning what God is saying through these interactions. This is both an active and a reflective process and my one concern is that we do the action without taking adequate time to really listen to what God wants to say through the process. When we do listen, and again preferably with others, this is a powerful spiritual practice that shapes us, our community and our neighbourhood.
However I would add also listening to the story of our world. Our local communities to not function in isolation from other communities in this country and around the world. The pain and horror of war, poverty and disease are all part of the context we need to consider. Our spiritual practices of listening and discerning should open us up to the broken heart of God who aches for the restoration of our world .
3. Taking time for personal and community renewal. I know from my own experience that it is easy, even when involved in regular listening and discernment to get too busy and too focused on the work that is still out there to be done. Working towards the completion of one area of transformation before we start on another is not easy. Pausing to take time to reflect on the good things that have been accomplished and to renew and restore your own person – body, soul and spirit – is not easy in our society.
Affirmation and gratitude should be at the heart of our spiritual life – affirmation of others by us, but also space and time for others and for God to affirm us. Taking time for this affirmative process makes us less driven and less inclined to commit ourselves to more than we are capable of or called to by God.
So as you think about this today ask yourself these questions:
1. When was the last time your walked around the neighbourhood thanking God for the good things God is accomplishing that you have the privilege to be a part of?
2. When was the last time you paused to drink in the presence of God and heard the divine voice say Well done good and faithful servant.
And if you can’t remember take some time to do this today.